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The Nut Graph’s future

IT has been an incredible four years since The Nut Graph first started publishing. And in that four years, we’ve had a couple of near-death experiences because we’ve not figured out a way to be financially sustainable.

Since retrenching everyone and scaling back publication from September 2010, we’ve managed to continue publishing on a much-reduced scale. For the past two years since Plan B, the company that owns The Nut Graph, Insight News Sdn Bhd, has continued to pay our writers and editors a contributor’s fee with the remaining funds we had left.

That money has since more or less run out. We continue to earn some money from our copyright of published material, including our three books – Found in Malaysia Vol 1 and 2, and Understanding the Dewan Rakyat. But none of these sporadic payments are in any way sufficient to sustain the kind of publishing we did in the first two years of our existence. Nor it is enough to keep us publishing the way we have since we launched Plan B.

Still, there is some good news.

A new plan

Collectively, as a team, we had decided that we would stop publishing by the end of August. My belief is that writers and editors need to be paid. And if we didn’t have any more money for editorial expenses, then it wasn’t fair to ask people to continue working indefinitely for free.

The good news is just after we made this decision, some readers decided that The Nut Graph was too important to go comatose. Putting money where their mouths were, they have pledged to give us some money to continue publishing at least for the next 12 months.

So, thanks to these readers, we’re not on a death bed, as we had expected. Their contribution is priceless in terms of its value in ensuring that The Nut Graph can continue to be the kind of critical media that is needed in Malaysia. And because the contribution is smaller in terms of ringgit and sen than what we originally had from our earlier investors, we need to scale back even more. Hence, The Nut Graph will only be able, for the most part, to publish one article every Monday morning, instead of the two to three we have been doing over the past two years.

All writers and editors have also agreed to continue working at much, much reduced fees in order to ensure The Nut Graph survives. Many of these writers and editors, in fact, were willing to work for free. Indeed, our current external columnists, Wong Chin Huat, KW Mak, Norhayati Kaprawi, Hwa Yue-Yi and Andrew Khoo have on several occasions written for us for free because we didn’t have the funds to pay them.

That, for me, says so much about the commitment of some Malaysian journalists and writers towards independent and critical media in Malaysia.

Our promise

At The Nut Graph, our promise to readers remains the same even if we are only publishing one story per week. We will continue to make sense of politics and popular culture, although popular culture tends to take a back seat to politics when our resources are limited. We are also committed to upholding the best ethical journalistic standards we can as per our editorial policy.

And we pledge to continue being critical of the state of things in Malaysia and of ourselves as media.

In the next few months, it’s left to be seen if we will have the resources to cover the next general election the way we did with Malaysia Votes, the precursor to The Nut Graph. As it stands now, we probably won’t have the funds for it because covering an election is costly business. Plus, nearly all of us in The Nut Graph are now employed elsewhere in order to make a living.

Still, who knows what is possible? I didn’t think we would last two years after we retrenched everyone in 2010. Not only did we do that, we are going to continue for a while yet. Never say never, I reckon. And everything else, as the company motto goes, is about doing what we can with the resources we have.


Jacqueline Ann Surin is thankful for all the people who make The Nut Graph possible. She is sorry Malaysia will soon no longer benefit from the critical voice of Merdeka Review.

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19 Responses to “The Nut Graph’s future”

  1. You have to be prepared to be different. You have to be impartial and balanced. Thus far 90% of all that is carried as journalism on The Nut Graph is unsubstantiated anti-government anti-Malay sentiments by a bunch of wannabes.

    You began life as an alternative to the trash and mediocrity that makes up much of Malaysia’s alternative to mainstream media. There was promise, there was hope.

    With the passing of time, the veneer has peeled off and you have, like many other so-called alternatives, become a mouthpiece of an incredulous opposition, hurling insults at a personal level and censoring those who respond to your articles with a different point of view.

    The moment you attack those who are different, you will spell your demise at your own hands. Try to be a little more tolerant of those who see the world from a different perspective. Try to be less of a Bersih mouthpiece and try to be independent. Then even I will be prepared to support you financially.

    Afraid to publish my take on the Ramon Navaratnam interview? Or are you still thinking hard?

    • All comments are moderated and published according to our comments policy.

      Because we respect our readers, we have chosen not to be a dumping ground for insults and insinuations. Hence, the clearly-stated comments policy which you may want to familiarise yourself with more fully if you would like your comments published on TNG.

      • idris says:

        Ah, but you have allowed insults and insinuations. Especially when made in support of TNG’s stance (or so it seems to me). Do you need reminding? How about some of the comments on “Malaysia’s gay threat”?

      • Well, it depends on what constitutes a dumping ground for insults. One way of looking at it is that the media in Malaysia, both mainstream and yours, would sit well with the old saying that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

        If you are to be so thin-skinned about what you term insults, then sift through that which you consider an insult and put up that which is not.

        To simply carry one side of the story about a particular topic is to insult the intelligence of the public.

        [...]

  2. JW Tan says:

    Thank you very much.

    I believe that the purpose of journalism is to hold the powerful to account. You are making a difference to Malaysia by doing this as effectively as you can.

    • Charity begins at home. “Mirror, mirror on the wall…..” Each one of us is powerful. When combined together in a single entity or platform, we become more powerful. The Nut Graph is powerful like most other media.

      Before we take that step of “removing the speck from our brother’s eye, we ought to remove the beam from our own”.

      Yes, publish and be damned. But you are not damned if you publish the truth. The truth is the greatest defence against any charge of bias, impartiality and defamation.

      • JW Tan says:

        Sure, if you can verify that it is truth. I can’t even verify that your name is Gopal Raj Kumar, and that you publish at the wordpress blog in your website field.

        All The Nut Graph (and journalists in general) can do is to fact check to a reasonable level, and publish. By and large, they do this. And they publish corrections where they believe they are wrong. That’s good enough. It’s not their job to eliminate bias from their reporting either. In general, readers are intelligent enough to judge and adjust for bias themselves.

  3. Azman says:

    Finally, an end to this pseudo-intellectual website! An ignominious end!

    I hope now all the stealth racist among Malaysians, please leave this country for good! You don’t deserve to be here!

    • hclau says:

      Ah..! But you are reading this anyway. Perhaps you should keep to Utusan!

      The Nut Graph can’t be sustained commercially because it does not have a real practical business (commercial plan). As with most other online publications, it can’t have. I have thought about this for a long time and have never been able to come out with a revenue stream that makes sense.

      Sorry Nut Graph folks, it is nice, but simply not commercially sustainable. I hope some people of “private” means will support you. Good luck!

    • Adam says:

      I just wonder who are the stealth racists among us. I believe a few of the writers in The Nut Graph are East Malaysian Bumiputras and they have written quite a few articles against racism and religious bigotry because they bear the brunt of such afflictions within Malaysian society.

      Let it be known that speaking up against racism and religious bigotry does not make one a racist or a bigot. Rather, adhering fervently to ketuanan this and that definitely would make you one. Are you?

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @Azman

      I agree. Let´s get rid of the open racists among Malaysians first, shall we? Barisan Nasional and all race-based parties, please get [...] out of this country for good!

      • No point blaming the “poor business model” and the Barisan. Kong Kek Kuat’s response to Azman says it all. The Nut Graph has decided in its infinite wisdom that the Barisan government; a government of Indian, Chinese and Malay [Malaysians], is racist. I suppose that’s because it embraces the 3 races who demand to be identified as such at Federation and independence.

        If the Nut Graph had been a little more fair in its commentary and not played the role of almighty god in a democracy censoring those it considered to be ‘on the other side’ of its precious self righteous politics, it would have survived.

        Unfortunately having a few east Malaysian Bumiputeras does not make a publication any less racist than it otherwise is deemed to be. That statement by Adam of itself reinforces the tokenism and racist tendencies of this rag.

        If it is too painful to change course into being a little more objective in your reporting writing and censorship then you must go.

        If “truth” in politics and in writing is what the “majority of Malaysians” as Bersih, the darlings of your “objectivity”claim is the case, (that being that the opposition and you have a monopoly on the truth), then that statement and claim is found seriously wanting with your impending demise.

        I hope for the sake of diversity you live to fight another day. But somehow I feel that would be impossible to achieve with the pubescent mindset of many of your writers.

        But like everyone else I am a dreamer and live on hope.

        • JW Tan says:

          That’s utter rubbish.

          I’d like Malaysia to move to a post-racial future, where we see each other as equal citizens, not labelled by whatever our skin colour happens to be. I do not necessarily want MCA to represent me. Why do they have a monopoly over the issues that I care about, simply because they are of the same ethnicity?

          Barisan is racist, perhaps the second-most racist government in the world after Zimbabwe’s. And they are insidiously successful, instilling a mindset among Malaysians that explicitly identifies and segregates other Malaysians by ethnicity. The moment one believes that people have different values to society deriving from their ethnicity, then one becomes racist. That’s essentially what Ketuanan Melayu (and the Barisan ethos) is.

        • idris says:

          Not to say I agree with all or even half of what was written, but this does sound like something the Nut Graph should seriously consider. Perhaps, instead of finding reasons why Gopal Raj Kumar could be wrong (as most people would tend to do), it might be better to approach this by honestly trying to prove him right (and, hopefully for your own sakes, finding that you cannot).

        • Adam says:

          You appear to have misinterpreted my comment. I am of the view that Nut Graph has been putting up articles which are against racism and religious bigotry. And that does not make them racists or bigots just as fighting crime does not make one a criminal.

          I believe that from your comments, you are with BN and I could understand how you feel about all those writing against BN and her policies. However, you must understand that those against BN may appear to be pro-opposition but in fact not. They are just speaking up for justice and fairness for all.

          And having all races in one party does not make it non-racist. BN has been making policies which are slanted to one race, one religion but Bumiputras are not all Malays nor all Muslims. Do you know how the East Malaysian Bumiputras feel even if you do not consider the feelings of the other non-Bumiputras? I am sure East Malaysians do not mind a Malaysia for all Malaysians to unite the whole nation with the proviso that all the poor need to be given assistance. A needs-based policy is what we need and not policies based on race and religion.

          And have you not heard the maxim that the good die young? The Nut Graph unfortunately does not have the financial support and have to tune down her publications. That is sad but I do appreciate their gallant effort thus far and hope that the writers would continue their fight against racism and injustice for the sake of our beloved nation.

  4. JW Tan says:

    I find the complaining about the comments policy rather strange. Presumably people who want to comment want to have their say. The best way of having one’s say is to get comments published. The best way of getting comments published is to read, understand and abide by the comments policy. So it’s not a big deal to change one’s tone and style to ensure that one’s aim is achieved. If this compromise cannot be made, then maybe the complainants are more interested in the polemic than the content.

  5. KK Aw says:

    Getting back to the future of TNG, you need to innovate; by that I mean really doing something about it. It is not about getting all the “experts” together and just talk.

    This article http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2011/02/18/why-steve-jobs-couldnt-find-a-job/3/ may give you some pointers. I like what is said about the Huffington Post:

    “While newspaper companies like Tribune Corp., NYT, Dow Jones and Washington Post have faltered, pop publisher Arianna Huffington created $315M of value by hiring a group of bloggers to populate the on-line news tabloid Huffington Post.”
    Good luck.

    • megabigBLUR says:

      I don’t mind seeing more ads etc. if it helps to keep TNG running and free. I do appreciate the longer articles and more in-depth analysis compared to the relatively short columnists in other online news websites. If my favourite websites were transmuted into newspapers, Malaysiakini would be the main section and TNG would be the long Saturday features.


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